Teaching Statistics with Social Justice

I am in the process of developing an introduction to Probability and Statistics course for incoming undergraduates that will take place this August. I have begun looking for real world data (i.e. messy data sets) that will be relevant to the students. While casting about for data sets, I found the article Critical Values and Transforming Data: Teaching Statistics with Social Justice by Dr. Lawrence Lesser in the Journal of Statistics Education.

The article makes a case for the place of social justice in a Statistics course, and explains how to communicate this case to one’s department, how to peak the students’ interests without stirring up unwanted controversy, and gives examples and suggestions for how to implement such a course.

I was so inspired by this article that I started dreaming of designing a Statistics and Social Justice course in which all of the examples and data sets deal with current social justice issues, the students read statistical papers that bring social inequalities to light (Gelman et al’s Stop and Frisk paper came to mind immediately), and the final project is a data analysis on a current topic that the students are interested in. While the course I am developing for August won’t be this particular dream course, I plan on asking the students what social justice issues they care about the most, and I am excited to find some interesting social justicey (I’ve decided that’s the official term) data sets.

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